Reviews

January 29, 2014

Composing a Life: On Richard Powers’s Orfeo 5

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Watch Powers playfully scold his critics that, however well-intentioned, their judgments are inconsequential to the pursuit of art.

January 22, 2014

Hipster Noir: Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt Novels 4

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In Claire DeWitt, Sara Gran has given the hard-boiled detective a good, hard hipster twist, creating a character with a savagely vigilant mind and a black heart always on the verge of breaking.

November 29, 2013

Difficult History: On John Lewis’s March 0

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The civil rights movement is a brutal place, where young men torture themselves for the great cause, and where the moments of euphoria are all too rare.

November 27, 2013

Maps to Get Lost In: Visual Editions’ Where You Are 1

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Where You Are, an anthology of sixteen maps by an eclectic mix of writers, artists, and thinkers, delights in leading the reader astray by blowing up the conventional conception of the map.

November 19, 2013

Things Just Happen, Don’t Ask Why: César Aira’s The Hare and Shantytown 1

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This is fiction as a never-ending car chase, and you might just get away if you can only stop your vehicle from turning into a lampshade.

November 14, 2013

An Exalted State: On Jason Schwartz’s John the Posthumous 6

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To read Jason Schwartz is to enter a fugue state, in both senses of the word. His writing is, like a musical fugue, a mesmerizing series of themes stated successively in different voices; it is also, in the psychiatric sense, a state marked by wandering and an inability to remember one’s past accurately. It is a state unlike any other.

November 8, 2013

A Startup Soap Opera: On Nick Bilton’s Hatching Twitter 1

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While the characters featured in Hatching Twitter feel more like archetypes than actual humans, it’s hard not to eat this stuff up. Aspects of Dorsey’s behavior are hilariously juvenile. After being ousted from the company, he continued to take any and all interviews about Twitter, feigning authority when answering questions he did not know the answer to.

November 7, 2013

The Revenant’s Theater: On Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles 0

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With the character of the abandoned, grieving mother, Alarcón gets at the heart of the drama, the emotional core of the displacement problem. Because, even if a son sends money home every week, he still isn’t there. His clothes still sit in the drawers, eaten by moths, his bedroom covered with dust.

November 5, 2013

Youth and the Eisenberg Uncertainty Principle: Laura van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth 3

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With a billion swirling atoms of possibility and just that one fixed coordinate, a story takes shape as van den Berg brings the unexpected into brilliant focus.

October 29, 2013

The Lowest Form of Humor: How the National Lampoon Shaped the Way We Laugh Now 3

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The funny guys and girls who are confident (it was dawning on me, there at that orientation) are the ones who hold court at parties. The funny guys who are diffident become comedy writers. Or, as I once read in an interview with an Onion writer speaking about the makeup of its staff—the closest thing we have to the National Lampoon in its heyday—they’re the guys who are outside the party, making fun of the guy inside telling jokes.